Sunday, October 31, 2010

Reading the Classics with Paul- Moby-Dick- Part 7

The chief bypath of this week's reading was a survey of whales in art history.  More specifically, Ishmael spends several chapters comparing the appearance of whales in famous paintings and then stating that the paintings do not capture the appearance of whales as they appear in consensus reality to sailors a-hunting them.  Rather an archaic, Philistine's view of art if he were really suggesting that art need "look like stuff looks," but I'm sure the point he was driving at was to lead people away from fantastic representations toward a more accurate mind's eye view, especially as we're about to get to some whale killing in our story.  Let's take a moment and appreciate a novel instance of relevance in transitions from informational chapters to narrative.

Ah.  Sweet relevance.

The painting above is Pêche de la Baleine by Ambrose Louis Garneray.  Garneray was a contemporary of Melville's although it's doubtful they ever crossed paths.  The painting above is what Ishmael finally arrives at as a good representational example of whaling in art.  Note the "stripping" of the other whale in the background by the ship.

So much of this book would have demanded a tremendous amount of research (or apathy) from the reader in days before the advent of Google Image Search.  Having the ability to readily see the images he's referring to proved quite helpful to me this time and far more engaging.  Still, this was a bit of an exception to the text which, at this point in our reading, seems to be entirely side-trails.  I'm not sure the chapter about whaling lines was necessary.  I'm also not sure the chapter about the squid was necessary, although that one at least had the feature of idiosyncrasy to shake the reader awake.

Here is an example that Ishmael sites as a bad example, although more in step with the bulk of whales in paintings (albeit this one is an illustration rather than a painting.  One imagines mainly from the artistic problem of depicting something that dwells beneath the surface of the ocean.)  It's William Hogarth's depiction of Perseus and the whale:

Just for the sake of fun, compare with modern illustrator Tony Millionaire's whale:

The whale in art, as far as my own quick overview has revealed, seems to be more of a source to communicate unbridled, natural power beyond the means or comprehension of humankind.  Which is rather in keeping with what Melville seems to be trying with this book.  Again, his time spent poo-pooing whales in art history here seemed to me more a means to direct the mind's eye in viewing the coming chapter of whale hunting with a modicum of realism.  I found it to be a successful technique, although, again, only with the benefit of the visual examples to which he refers. 

We then have a chapter about the line used in whaling, a chapter where a giant squid shows up and spooks the easily spooked crew.  Then we finally get a good, full description of a successful whale hunt.  Stubb bags himself a whale through the efforts of his subordinates.  I guess the commanding officer gets the distinction of the successful whale hunt just for showing up.

I don't have a lot to add at this point.  Merrily we roll along.  Something's bound to happen sooner or later.

In the coming week, we shall read through Chapter LXXIII which, in my text, takes us up to page 306.

Friday, October 29, 2010


Each Hallowe'en, Laurie and I do a bare minimum of joining in on the festivities.  We're not against the holiday or any such nonsense.  We are simply two working adults without small children nor a circle of friends who throw parties which they invite us to.  This year, I'm working on the night of the holiday.

So holidays tend to be a bit low key around our house.  This mainly translates to "we do the part of the festivities that we like and ignore the rest."  In the case of the very strange hybrid holiday known as Hallowe'en, the part we like is carving pumpkins and roasting their seeds.  We also tend to get a modest bag of candy on the off chance that a mendicant, masquerading moppet comes a-gently rapping on our chamber door.  Given our neighborhood, we tend to have a lot of leftover candy.

So, we went to Trader Joe's.

Laurie notes that, in keeping with our tastes, Laurie chose the large, handsome, classical one and I chose the small, elegant, white one. 

Then comes the choice of Jack-o'-lantern style.  I put it to the internet Hive Mind and got some excellent suggestions (including The Pope, Wilford Brimley, something from a Beckett play, and Dr. Mabuse.)  Finally, however, I was struck with the whiteness of the pumpkin and chose to go with a theme from my reading.  So, I produced this:

That's right!  It's the Great White Whale!  I would direct your attention to the harpoons sticking out of his side which I fashioned from paperclips and thread.  The fluke is simply a wire hanger with the stem also papered over.

To answer your question, yes, I was the kind of kid who loved to make dioramas for school projects.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Reading the Classics with Paul- Moby-Dick- week 6

The bulk of this week's reading comprised a story which sort of serves as our "we're going to need a bigger boat" scene.  In this story within-the-story, we finally see Moby-Dick in action.  In all fairness to Ahab, at this point one might mention that the number of whales eaten by people remains at 0 so far, while the number of people eaten by the white whale is now at 1.25.  The rather violent tale serves to further illustrate not only the dangers of the whaling trade (which I can't believe is even still a thing!) but especially the dangers of this particular whale.  If Ishmael's meditation on the unbearable whiteness of being didn't do it for you, now you have a dead guy in the whale's belly.

I don't have a lot to add this week.  The story was long and rambling although I was engaged at the parts where the narrator stuck to the story.  I was confused, to the point of flipping back a page to see if I'd missed something, at the breaks in the narrative to talk to the people listening to the story.  And the priest part at the end struck me as a bit maudlin, although, again, in such a way that raised fears that I may be too modern and cynical to appreciate this book.

Although, I thought the fight, with the guy's jaw gushing blood on the deck much like the whales they cut up, was well described and kind of exciting.  As was the account of the insubordinate sailors hiding in the forecastle (although they were being drama queens, didn't you think?)  This served to further my contention that Melville was a decent adventure story author.  As I understand it, in his lifetime, that's largely what he was known as.  I feel it's telling that no one reads his other works today.  I haven't and I have no intention of ever doing so.  The strangeness of this book, and I'm not sure I've ever had this experience reading before, is that it does occasionally hit transcendence, but it's so clunky, so few and far between, so buried in notes on knot tying and what-not, that I find myself constantly hyper-aware of this fact the whole time I'm reading.  I've jokingly suggested to friends that this might be very early meta-fiction, that the greatness of the book is like the white whale itself, unseen and constantly looming below the surface.  You are pretty sure that it's going to emerge from the deeps sometime in the process of reading it, you just don't know when.  If someone posited that hypothesis in seriousness, I would refuse to take it as such.

On the other hand, we are in the middle of Moby-Dick where nothing happens.  That was my recollection from having read it a decade ago.  I came to this reading assuming my brain was indulging in its usual propensity for exaggeration.  I found that I was right on the money.  We're driving around in an ocean looking for one particular whale.  Get comfy.

That's all I have for this week.  Next week, we'll read through Chapter LXIII which, in my book, takes us up to 273 (and we're past the halfway mark, people.)

Monday, October 18, 2010

Meditations on Meditations

Waste no more time arguing about what a good man should be. Be one.

When Rob died, I was reading the Stoics and Dante's Inferno. This was not planned. It was an accident of my reading lists, although my reading of the former works at that critical time smacked a bit of divine superintendence to me. It was, for me, the right words delivered at the right moment. The Stoics have helped me through a difficult time (although, to reveal a chink in my armor and have a moment of sincerity on this too too public blog, I should admit that I say "through" with a hint of ironic, self-deprecating cynicism) with a stipulation.  I'll come back to my closing thoughts on my Stoical sojourn in a moment.  First, I need to talk a bit about this final Stoic work in the Harvard Classics series, The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius. 

Marcus Aurelius Antoninus was the emperor of Rome from the year of our Lord 161 until his death in 180.  He was one of the better Roman Emperors, especially at that time, although one of the dark marks in his otherwise fine record is that he did persecute the early Christians for a time. This was apparently buckling to popular opinion on his part. This is not one of the more important details of his biography as he was hardly a Nero, but it may be worth noting that scholars have apparently tried to rescue Marcus Aurelius from this black spot on his record. George Long (the translator), in an essay following the text, mentions a document that has surfaced which claims to have been written by Aurelius begging the Senate to not persecute the Christians. Long says it's a rather ham-fisted forgery and it is unlikely that Aurelius put that much thought into the matter at all.

The saddest part of the text is that it is a book written for one seeking to live a virtuous life, full of the wisdom gained by the insightful ruler, apparently for the amelioration of his son, Commodus. Commodus was one of the bad emperors. It was Pax Romana under Aurelius, but Commodus threw a spanner right into those works. In the case of this book, I envision a scene much like the claim of old Bosie Douglas upon receipt of Wilde's De Profundis that he threw it into the fire unread.

I got slightly less out of Aurelius than I did from the excellent Epictetus, partially because Aurelius was a little more obscure and Long admittedly tried to preserve Aurelius' innocence of rhetorical skill. This lead to some confusing passages. But I still found it to be an excellent work. Aurelius camps long on contentment which, as a Christian myself, I find rather lacking without the focus on glorifying God. Aurelius has a great deal of that as well, although he and I would be speaking of different Gods. However, his focus on chucking attachments of pain and pleasure put me in mind of the areas in which Buddhism and Christianity meet in ways I find helpful.

I would be remiss if I didn't speak on the struggle that ensued for me from the Stoic presentation of contentment. I found it a bit hollow and soon realized why. It stems back to the old question "Is it possible to have morality without God?"  A question to which my personal answer, at least in my experience in my own life, is "no." You see, Aurelius' instructions for a life of contentment are all well and good. If followed as prescribed they should effect the desired outcome. But that's just it. For me (and, I daresay, for Commodus), it lacked the reasoning as to why one should desire to, as it were, "keep it on the rails." Why does it matter to live a life of contentment over one of gross hedonism? Why, even, is it preferable to alive or dead? In the case of the Harvard Classics series, one supposes that its place in the progression, following Socrates' fairly solid case for living a virtuous life for the sake of living a virtuous life, it offers some keen tools. However, taken on its own, it's a bit like having a detailed and easy to follow recipe for Boeuf Bourguignon, but having no idea how to eat.

Fortunately, I have an answer which causes all of the pieces to fall into place and makes contentment a very valuable lesson indeed. The answer I have is the focus of a life toward God and the outworkings that stem from that focus.

However, even more helpful in this temporal life, I thought, was his focus on social justice. He brought forth concepts like: what is bad for the hive is bad for the bee. He also appeals to our nature in doing what is set before us, just as a fig tree produces figs, do what you are to do.

Also, he is a bit starkly honest in admitting that life is not all about happiness and good times. I remember when I was a child having a reaction at a certain part of a popular children's film. It was the Gene Wilder version of Willy Wonka and there was a line that the Oompa-Loompas sing in one of their finger-wagging songs, after having dispensed their advice concerning the chapter of the story that had just closed, along the lines of "you will live in happiness too, like the Oompa-Loompas doompity-do." I remember thinking that they didn't strike me as being particularly happy-seeming. They seemed rather stern and, as it were, stoic. But age brings perspective and now I see that there is wisdom in the house of mourning. So often I've found that living at the frequency of levity makes the fall much further when tragedy inevitably strikes. Also, if one maintains a level of gravitas in one's character, one is more accessible to those who need someone in times of trouble.

Aurelius and the rest of the Stoics are often criticized on this point, but then, we do live in a remarkably silly culture. I personally think that there is an honesty there that many are uncomfortable with. We have no guarantee of happiness and certainly none of longevity. Aurelius' advice is, in the most simple terms, "be content regardless." If you can find contentment in times of struggle, you can tap into it at any time. Again, I find the divorce from my spiritual walk unhelpful, but remarrying the two I've found this to be a great help to me, a great comfort during a great trial.

In the case of Rob, I've been left holding a bag full of questions. Why him and not me? Why now? What was that all about? What do I do for the remainder of my life without being able to talk to him? The Stoics don't answer those questions directly because no one can. Either there is no answer or it's not for us to know. But now I feel a bit more equipped to be content in my circumstances. Now it's just a matter of employing those tools at the necessary moment instead of wallowing in discontent and worry.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Reading the Classics with Paul- Moby-Dick- Part 5

Above: Things from around my house that would unnerve Melville.
Kids! Can you find nouns around your house that would drive Melville to write three chapters on the unseen dread that invisibly infuses all of observable reality?

In this week's reading, Ishmael talked for a very long time about the whale and its whiteness.  He forged a mad, teetering link between the appearance of the whale and all that inspires fear in... well, him, but him projected on all of humankind.  In short, he decidedly casts in his lot with Ahab's obsessive mission.  Chapter 42 "The Whiteness of the Whale" is one of the key chapters to understanding the entire book.  Not that we were really having much difficulty with that in the first place. 

As a quick side note, this week I was struck by how American the book is in its obsessiveness.  That sort of behavior is the fulcrum of our society and, indeed, the impetus which keeps our economy from completely tumbling over.  It also struck me that Ishmael was the character bringing meaning to the table like the poor dupe that he is.  Ishmael goes on and on about the meaning of the whale hunt.  I get the impression that Ahab's "meaning" is much more simplistic and visceral.  He wants to kill the thing that bit his leg off.  Which rather puts me at a difficult impasse for the remainder of the reading.  This epiphany paints Ahab in my mind as a brute, much like Starbuck's accusation against him after his rabble rousing speech, who seeks human revenge on a dumb beast.  Ishmael, on the other hand, seems to see something which I'm not sure is really there.  Although the link between Ahab and the whale is physical.  Part of the man himself is literally part of the whale now and the ivory leg seems to indicate that part of a whale is part of Ahab himself as well.  Much like Coleridge's Ancient Mariner wearing the albatross (literally.  "Wearing the albatross" sure does sound like a euphemism, though, doesn't it?)

That plays neatly into my own judgement of the book itself thus far: that it is like taking a vacation to a place you've always wanted to visit and having a tour guide who you dislike personally.  Ishmael increasingly strikes me as what I would call "a borderline case."

Christopher pointed out the flipped Gnostic line, "Though in many of its aspects this visible world seems formed in love, the invisible spheres were formed in fright."  Sort of a Proto-Lovecraftian view of the universe.  Indeed, I think Lovecraft did it better and, to seize one of the very rare instances in life one gets to employ a phrase like this, I think Lovecraft was not nearly as heavy-handed.  

Of course, one of the points being set up on stage in this portion of our reading is one of the major themes of the work: To really know what's in the abyss, it is necessary to actually fall in.

We finish out this week's reading with an account of an actual whale hunt.  It is quite tense and riveting.  Ahab, we find, has hidden ringers on the ship who he trots out when the mast-sitter sings out.  I enjoyed this chapter quite a bit.  I felt Melville really captured the rush of hunting giant unseen things beneath you which could surface and kill you at any moment.

I made a decision next week to extend the reading an extra week for a number of reasons.  Foremost was the fact that the brisk schedule I'd married myself to was precluding any other reading from my life, which is unacceptable.  Second, the new schedule will have me finish in time for Christmas.  This appealed to me on a number of levels. 

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Right Ho, Jeeves!

Purely in the interest of diversion, I've just gone through another P.G. Wodehouse book in the Jeeves and Wooster series.  This one was Right Ho, Jeeves!  It was a full length novel, a rip-roaring good time, and not, I think, entirely frivolous.  I'll return to this in a moment.

For those of you unacquainted with the Jeeves series, you really should amend that state of affairs in your life.  They are delightful books.  They revolve around Bertram Wilberforce "Bertie" Wooster who is a man of his times (1920s and 1930s, although the earliest stories I believe are from the 'teens), class (upper), and place of origin (Great Britain.)  The stories are written from his point of view.  In his employ is a valet named Jeeves.  Among the more prominent running gags is that Wooster, the master, is a bit bumbling and prone to get into difficult spots while Jeeves, the servant, is wise, highly intelligent, and seemingly infallible in his advice.

To wit, the beginning of the well known British television adaptation with Stephen Fry, one of my favorite living humans, in the role of Jeeves and Hugh Laurie, maybe you've heard of him, as Wooster.

It's a fun series and, yes, there are Jeeves and Wooster geeks.  I am one.

The book in question revolves around a series of romantic mishaps in Bertie's peer group who, through a series of additional mishaps, end up visiting Bertie's Aunt Dahlia's estate en masse.  Bertie gets snippy over a dinner jacket that Jeeves strongly discourages him from wearing and expresses his hypothesis that Jeeves has lost his touch.  Bertie decides that this time he will take it upon himself to solve the problems surrounding him without the help of Jeeves.  You can probably well imagine the direction that takes.  As usual, I'm reluctant to spoil the plot, but the end is in the manner of a Gilbert and Sullivan comic opera where the lovers all fall in with their appropriate lovers and everyone gets the desserts coming to them.

Along with the high entertainment value, the turns of phrase are excellent and extremely clever.  I come away from the books having a light education (finally being driven to look up the details of the wreck of the Hesperus) and vocabulary bolstering (finally looking up the definition of "collation" to slip into conversations that drift toward the culinary) snuck in by a highly inventive author.  It's also the sort of book I can bring up when someone who cares about me expresses concern over the gloominess of my usual literary fare.  I'm surprised it took me this long to say it, but if you've never read Wodehouse before, I cannot recommend him highly enough.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Reading the Classics with Paul- Moby-Dick part 4

If you would do me the kindness of forgiving the obviousness of the statement, we've hit choppier waters.  We begin this week's reading with Cetology, a chapter which I expected to dislike immensely.  However, largely thanks to Christopher's recommendation of the online annotation Power Moby-Dick as a very helpful tool in these chapters of encyclopedic information on whaling, I actually enjoyed this quite a bit.  I do feel that one needs visual aids in this chapter.  Ishmael inexplicably lapses into some strange "Folio" format in relaying the information he has to dispense on the topic of whales, but laying that aside, yes, I found it engaging to hear what passed for Cetological knowledge over 150 years ago.

We then have a series of chapters which go something like this:
A job description of a member of the crew, an account of a meal that the officers take together, an account of pole sitting and how Ishmael gets a bit moony up there, Ahab's inciting incident (150 pages in) of his impassioned speech, his nailing of a plot device to the mast, Starbuck's minor rebellion, a series of internal monologues where we seem to have dashed the established narrator altogether, and we finish with a script of what I think was a dance that turned into a brawl.  My uncertainty stems from Melville's insistence on slopping the 1840s sailor slang on as thick as possible.  It was difficult to follow and, I'm afraid, I wasn't terribly inspired to do the mental gymnastics that Melville was demanding over what I opined was superfluous material.  I seem to lack the capacity to muster the required interest in working out what he means by phrases like: "What hey there, lad!  Tear aside!  Hoist ye knickers!  'Gains the mizzen with the gargamel!"  And colloquialisms of that ilk in the parlance of either the Terpsichorean or the pugilistic.
I am told there is a very important and great chapter on the way.  I am looking forward to the celebrated Chapter 42.  Over the past few weeks I've read a great deal about how this book went from relative obscurity to a fair bet on a good deal of lists of great literature.  I am still not entirely certain I'm convinced.  In retrospect, I wonder if some of my brain didn't realize, back when I was laying out the schedule for this reading group, that I ought to save this book for the end of our list.  Because the inclination to jump ship at this point is fairly strong.  The last time I read this book was over a decade ago.  I have no memory of my reaction at that time, but I think I've decided that this will likely be my final journey through Melville.  The "hit" in his "hit-and-miss" record thus far strikes me as too few and far between.  I feel anxious to delve into my next reading project where thus far I've struck gold consistently with every title.  It's a bit like I'm sorting through mud in which I am told there are many diamonds, but within plain sight of the mud pile in which I root is a big pile of visible, clean, cut diamonds free for the taking. 

So... I'm sort of grumpy about Melville this week.  You?

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Reading the Classics with Paul- Moby-Dick- Part 3

The photograph above is of a statue of Perseus by Benvenuto Cellini.  Melville references it in regards to the appearance of Captain Ahab. He does not say that Ahab looks like Perseus (or even Medusa.)  He says that Ahab is "shaped in an unalterable mold" like the statue.  Although I think we all know enough about the character described to understand the parallels with the subject matter. Ahab has his own Medusa in his sights. As with everything with Melville, there is a distinct thematic reason why he chose this statue. Aside from the timeline discrepancy, something like Oldenburg's Spoonbridge and Cherry would not be appropriate in this instance. "Ahab was one shaped in an unalterable mold like Oldenburg's Spoonbridge and Cherry."  Somewhat wanting in gravitas, eh what?

As a quick side note, one of the benefits of signing on to a reading project like the one I am doing with the Harvard Classics is that, along with leading one to read things one would not have otherwise read, it also leads one to finally read a good deal of "I've always meant to read that" books. Cellini's autobiography is one of those books that I've thought that about for years, but then walked out of the library with some flashy McSweeney's nonsense or something instead.

So, we're three paragraphs in to this week's Moby-Dick post and I've yet to talk about this week's reading.  There is a reason for that. A little frustration has crept in. It's not that I dislike the book. I'm actually enjoying it tremendously. But I have two examples to present to you of what I'm talking about. One is the name of the prophet, which when it was announced, I audibly snorted derisively at the stark obviousness of it, upsetting the dog on my lap. Melville has a heavy, heavy hand. He loves loomings and foreshadowings. In fact, so far, anything else in the book has been a very slow train coming.

The other illustration I have to submit to you is the chapter "The Lee Shore," which talks for a length about Bulkington and has absolutely nothing to add to the narrative aside from tone. Melville is painting a very broad and baroque picture. At first I worried that perhaps my slick, modern sensibilities were preventing me from really appreciating what Melville was doing here. Perhaps the post-television world speed of the culture in which I find myself prevents me from appreciating very fine points being put upon things. But Christopher pointed out, and rightly so I think, that Moby-Dick may not be the best example of the wide, sweeping world of an epic 19th century novel. Tolstoy did it so much better. In other words, I don't think it's me.

I did like the description of Starbuck. I like him. I'm supposed to like him I gather. And the other crewmates: Tubbs and Bud and Spanky and Bruce and Marvin and Leon and Cletus and George and Bill and Slick and Do-right and Clyde and Ace and Blackie and Queenie and Prince and Spot and Rover. And Rudolph, he who is marked by rosacea. I'm just making things up at this point to throw students who use my blog to plagiarize for school papers. Actually, I stole that list of names from a Ray Stevens song.  But there is a series of character studies of fellow shipmates, all of whom are compelling and humanizing, to make us care about their problems. This is in order to make us be sad when the guy who smokes the pipes dies. It's like the cop in the action film whose character development comprises his few days until retirement and seeing his beloved daughter graduate college.

So.... strike that earlier comment absolving myself from modern cynicism.

And we finally meet Ahab who comes out of his cabin and sees his shadow, which portends eight more weeks of winter. We end this week with a dream in a chapter whose title brings Mercutio to mind, which seems an appropriate character, one who might actually fit in this story. There is something of The Bard about the scene in this chapter. I smell whiffs of Hamlet's gravediggers and Clarence's drowning dream from Richard III as well. Melville infused his brain with Scripture and Shakespeare. It shows in what comes spilling out of his mind. It's a quality of his that I would like to emulate. Stubb dreams of a merman who tells him to count a "kick" from Ahab as an honor.

I feel like a high school English teacher even mentioning Ahab's dropping the pipe into the sea symbolizing his abandonment of all Earthly pleasure in deference to his cetacean vendetta.

I am so torn over this text. I think I like it a lot, but I also feel a sort of perpetual impatience. On the other hand, I do like the story he's telling and the picture he is painting. It is a bit like the long waiting periods in hunting or fishing though. Like Persian sherbet in crystal goblets flaked up with rose-water snow.

Next week, we read up through Chapter XL which, in my text, takes us up to page 169 and spits us out before a chapter enticingly called Moby-Dick, threatening headway in the narrative.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Brief Review of a Gastronomic Windfall

So, Chronicle Books is on Twitter (@ChronicleBooks) and occasionally has a book giveaway.  I was recently very impressed with a recipe they posted for a Kadota Fig Tart with Mascarpone Cream. I entered the giveaway for the book from which said recipe sprang and the two photos included in this post ought to tell the rest of the story more expeditiously than a man as enamored with his own circumlocution as I.

As you've no doubt read, the book is The Winemaker Cooks by Christine Hanna (with appropriately lush, if you'll pardon the expression, photography by Sheri Giblin.)  Hanna is the president of Hanna Winery and Vineyards in Sonoma County (which is really only about a day trip away.  I believe this serendipitous acquisition to my cooking library has put the destination on some mental list for some future day when I am able to take day trips.)  

As you can see, it is a very beautiful cookbook, filled with gorgeous and creative dishes.  Very much in the "entertaining" vein of cookbooks with dishes both delicious and impressive; the book itself seems too nice to bring into the kitchen with me when I'm cooking.  My cookbooks tend to chronicle the dishes I've created by ingredients left behind on their pages.  However, I would also add that for a centerpiece of a book, the price is reasonable.  Chronicle Books also sent a small catalog of their forthcoming Autumn line of cookbooks, all of which are similarly impressive and delightful (e.g. The Domaine Chandon Cookbook, Michael Chiarello's Bottega, Tartine Bread, Absinthe Cocktails.)

There is another aspect to the book which I believe will prove dear to me, which actually served as the catalyst for my compulsion to write this post.  There are sprinkled throughout the text questions to and answers by the eponymous winemaker.  Upon opening the package containing the book, I flipped at random to a page about stocking a wine cellar.  I, of course, have, largely by design, structured my economic life in such a way that I will never have my own wine cellar.  But I do have a new, modest wine rack which I am greatly looking forward to stocking.  She gives advice on aiming toward wines which boast the strengths of their given regions and then goes on to give a brief outline of some of those strengths!  When I told this to Laurie she correctly guessed that I would be photocopying this section and carrying it around in my wallet.

I've owned the book for about four hours and I already offer you my earnest recommendation.  Also, poke around the Chronicle Books website.  There is a lot of nifty material there.